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Valencia Water Co. buy approved

Castaic Lake Water Agency board votes to purchase private retailer

Posted: December 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.

By a vote of 9 to 1, directors on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board voted in favor of buying the Valencia Water Co. on Wednesday night.

All but B. J. Atkins, who also sits on the Newhall County Water District board — the Santa Clarita Valley’s only other local water district governed by publicly elected boards — voted in favor of the move.

The agency now has the approval to buy one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s privately held water retailers, which would give it 84 percent of the valley’s retail water connections.

Atkins told the board he wanted more time for input, debate and discussion of the purchase.

“I don’t understand the compelling need to do it tonight,” he said. “I would just like a little bit more time.”

Agency President Tom Campbell responded, “I apologize it came at such a rapid pace.”

Atkins, his fellow board members and an audience dotted with water officials, environmentalists and concerned citizens learned for the first time Wednesday about the secret ongoing meetings between agency deal-makers and representatives of Newhall Land Development Inc., which owns the Valencia Water Co.

With the green light given to move ahead with the purchase, the agency will purchase 15,365 shares of the Valencia Water Co. for $73.8 million.

The Valencia Water Co.’s authorized common stock consists of 50,000 shares, 100 percent par value, of which 15,365 are issued and owned by Newhall Land and Farming.

Other agency board members applauded the move, making several references to One Valley, One Vision, the model embraced by the city of Santa Clarita as the blueprint for community development.

Specifically, board members cited the move as centralizing and better managing of Santa Clarita Valley’s water supply.

“This is one of the defining votes this agency will ever take,” said board member Bill Pecsi. “It is one of the most important votes I will make because it is visionary.”

Director R.J. Kelly said: “It is the right direction for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, the right direction for this community and the right direction for water management.”

Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District, also asked board members for time to review the details of the plan.

“It’s a lot of information in such a short space of time,” he said. “Our district would like an opportunity to review information before you make your decision.”

Then a lawyer representing the water district spoke about legalities of the deal.

“It does not meet the requirements for eminent domain,” said Thomas S. Bunn III.

The item on Wednesday night’s special agenda authorized agency staff to initiate eminent domain proceedings “with the goal of reaching a negotiated settlement” with Newhall Land.

A lawyer representing the agency responded at the podium, saying he and others went to “painstaking efforts” to ensure that eminent domain requirements were met and that the deal was in order.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is a wholesaler that provides State Water Project water to the Santa Clarita Valley’s water retailers. About half the water used in Santa Clarita Valley homes and businesses comes from the water agency. The rest is well water.

Castaic Lake Water Agency already owns Santa Clarita Water Division, another water retailer. The remaining retailers in the valley include District 36, which has a small clientele in Castaic and Val Verde, and Newhall County Water District, the oldest water retailer in the valley




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